Education officials release state school rankings


Published: Monday, January 30, 2012 at 7:18 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 30, 2012 at 7:18 p.m.

The Florida Department of Education Monday released a ranking of the performance of nearly all state schools based on FCAT scores and other factors.

Hidden Oak ranked 24th out of 1,795 elementary schools in the state, with Micanopy Area Cooperative School coming in at 58th and Talbot Elementary at 90th, rounding out the top 100 elementary schools. The rankings were released for the first time this year.

Fort Clarke ranked 93rd out of 583 middle schools, while Buchholz came in 43rd out of 404 high schools.

Alachua Learning Center posted the top ranking for combination elementary and middle schools in the county with a ranking of 17th out of 194 in the state. P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, which is part of the University of Florida’s College of Education, ranked 13th out of 55 among combination schools of all grades.

Alachua County Public Schools Superintendent Dan Boyd said the list’s conclusions were nothing new.

“I’m not overly impressed with how I’m supposed to use this data to improve the schools of Alachua County,” he said.

Schools were assigned points based on overall performance on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, learning gains on the test and the percentage of struggling students that posted learning gains. The calculation for high schools also included graduation rates, student participation and performance in advanced courses and college readiness.

Those factors are used already by the state to assign school grades.

The top rankings paint a telling picture, Boyd said. Those schools, he said, are specialty magnet schools in affluent areas.

“If we draw the conclusion if you pick your students who are highly academically successful and fill the school with them, unlike Eastside, you will probably rank pretty high on this calibration,” he said.

Eastside High School, named the 20th best high school in the nation by the Washington Post’s High School Challenge List, was ranked 107th out of 404 by the state.

State education officials touted the ranking as a way to help parents, educators and community leaders make decisions on how they can get involved.

Hidden Oak Principal Ron Knowles said his staff, students and parents all contribute to the school’s ranking of 24th. He said he wasn’t surprised the state decided to release a ranking of all schools.

“It’s happening across the country, so I kind of expected it,” he said. “I just hope people realize there’s a lot of hard-working people out there at all the schools.”

Sweetwater Branch Academy’s elementary charter school, which opened in 2010, earned a dubious honor — being near the bottom of the barrel. It ranked 1,792nd out of 1,795 in the elementary school category. It also received an F state grade for the 2010-11 school year.

Principal Ugur Baslanti said the ranking doesn’t provide context.

“We got all these students from the district area schools,” he said. “Our teachers worked very hard, but these students were very low; some students were even two grades below current (grade) level in reading and math.”

There is slight concern what parents could think as a result, he said.

“When you (number) everything, everything in between is lost: all those efforts and energy, great teachers, all the things you do to help the kids,” he said. “You’re just numbering the schools.”

Boyd shared that concern, citing Stephen Foster’s ranking at 513.

“I would be glad my child was in Stephen Foster, and I wouldn’t get hung up on a few numbers,” he said. “I know the quality of instruction going on in our schools.”

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